Husband and wife Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst perform as the duo Shovels and Rope. The band named themselves after items most frequently mentioned in murder ballads. Their music is like an old box tumbling down a flight of stairs while a train approaches in the distance. The commotion feels like it’s about to break apart, but it all comes together with powerful lyrics sung with remarkable harmonies from the Charleston, South Carolina based couple. It’s rough and beautiful at the same time.
Shovels and Rope traded instruments throughout the night. One song Hearst would be on the drums while Trent strummed an acoustic guitar. The next song they would switch. Keyboards were played if someone had a free hand. The lyrics from their latest album By Blood were displayed on the stage backdrop. It was a clever idea because you can find phrases they were singing throughout their set. The couple also wore t-shirts with the album name. Trent confessed, “We bought so many of these that we could wear a different one every night.” Hearst replied, “Or maybe folks can just buy some.”
The backdrop transformed into different images throughout the show. For the song, I’m Comin’ Out, a video of intense athletes preparing for game day appeared. Moving skeletons emerged in the background just in time for Halloween for their tune Evil – “But every now and then I get evil/I’m ashamed in the shadow of the steeple/I’m a lunatic looking thru a keyhole/I hit my kids but I don’t mean to/I’m a dead dog lying on the sidewalk/Another victim of the mortgage bubble pop/Waiting for the other shoe to drop.“
Trent grew up in Denver and acknowledged that his family was in the audience. He dedicated the song Hail Hail to his late father who loved Chuck Berry. Trent admitted that he didn’t know if Berry would approve of the song, but he realizes that his father would have loved it. Shovels and Rope ended the show by sharing a microphone singing a cover of Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters’ Cry Baby (Janis Joplin famously covered this song as well). Their smiles gave the audience an insight to their mighty love for each other. Shovels and Ropes’ music conveyed their passion for life.
John Paul White was the opening act. White’s headline tour with his own band came through Denver back in June. You can find out all the details of that show by clicking here. White performed solo with his 1957 Martin guitar. He was shocked how many people in the audience knew his songs after playing this year’s single The Long Way Home. When White played a few numbers from his old band The Civil Wars, every single person in the crowd recognized the Grammy award winning material. The famous guitar picking from 20 Years had the crowd cheering. During Barton Hollow, the crowd sung the chorus, “Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow/Devil gonna follow me e’er I go/Won’t do me no good washing in the river/Can’t no preacher man save my soul.” He left the stage knowing the crowd wanted more.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one in the By Blood t-shirt playing the keyboard with my free hand.